TODAY | January 31, 2013
>> federal agents are culling through dozens of boxes from a from nent florida eye doctor and now scrutiny falling on a top ranking democratic senator. justice correspondent pete williams has the story. good morning.
>> good morning. federal officials are declining to say exactly what's behind the search but the doctor is well-known is south florida . he's been an active political contributor and friend of senator robert menendez , the subject of an ethics complaint.
>> reporter: in florida , federal agents hauled away boxes of material tuesday night and witnessed from the office of a west palm beach eye doctor . he and members of his family are big political contributors. records show they've given more than $33,000 in the past 15 years to u.s. senator robert men menendez .
>> this hearing of the senate foreign relations committee --
>> reporter: he just took over as chairman of the senate florida relations committee. they appeared at a gala chaired by milgen. the senate ethics committee has received a complaint from a new jersey republican official who complained menendez got rides on a private plane to the dominican republic and elsewhere without disclosing them.
>> senator went on flights to dominican republic and flights to puerto rico , et cetera from this doctor down in florida on his private jet , which he had failed to report.
>> reporter: in a statement, saturday menendez called the doctor a friend and political supporter many years and took three trips on that plane but paid for and reported them properly. but his staff said he wrote a check two weeks ago three weeks after the ethics complaint was made to reimburse the doctor $58,000 for two trips in 2010 and the senator refers to a series of claims made on conservative websites saying he met with prostitutes while in the dominican republic . those allegations, they say are manufactured, politically motivated and false, based on a series of anonymous e-mails that first surfaced last april sent to a political watchdog group in washington called crew. but when the tipster repeatedly declined to talk on the phone or agree to a meeting, the group turned the messages to the fbi.
>> it turns out he has no real interest coming forward and making sure this matter can be investigated as a law enforcement issue. it seems he's much more interested seeing it brought to light as a big scandal.
>> reporter: as for the search in florida , federal officials say agents from the department of human services were involved meaning they may be looking into allegations of health care fraud.